MANILA, Philippines - At least 80 establishments on Boracay island face possible demolition by end of March this year for building too close to the water line, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said Wednesday.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Jimenez said a government task force, composed of the tourism, environment, health, justice and interior and local government departments, have finalized a list of 80 establishments that violated the easement portion area of the 4-kilometer white sand beach in Boracay.
Jimenez said the 80 establishments have been "quietly informed" about their violations and ordered to self-demolish by the end of the peak season in March.
"By March, they should have self-demolished. Karamihan niyan pwede na nilang gawan ng paraan. On their own, pwede na nilang gawin ang corrective measures. They can already do the easement, 25 meters from the water line so all those in violation have been informed very quietly. However, they should know that after March, it will not be very quiet if they have not done what they are supposed to do. We will have to remove it for them," he said.
The tourism chief said the deadline for the self-demolition is non-negotiable because of the deterioration of the island's beaches. He said resorts that ignore the order will still be demolished and the expenses shouldered by the owners.
Jimenez confirmed some of the structures, including embankments to prevent floods, will be completely demolished for building too near the water line.
"Boracay is a very important island. I hope everybody understands - we have given them ample warning and reasonable time to cooperate. Beyond that, the interests of the general public must prevail," he said.
"Meron hong medyo bitter medicine na lulunukin ang iba diyan. Simple lang. Kitang-kita naman ang damage na ginagawa," he added.
Boracay was recently named the world's best island getaway by international travel magazine "Travel + Leisure", besting Bali island in Indonesia.
However, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje warned Boracay's world-famous white sand beaches are disappearing because of development projects on the island.
These include the controversial West Cove resort, which became controversial for constructing structures on natural rock formations and operating for years without permits.
The tourism chief said clearing the beaches this year "will gradually restore the sand flow" in Boracay as confirmed by environmental consultants. He said even a Department of Tourism outpost will be demolished for violating the easement portion of the beach.
Jimenez said he expects fierce opposition to the government's move to save the beach.
"Medyo makulay ang mangyayari dito but we will do what we have to do...We are putting an imaginary line on the sand and saying, 'You get back behind the line or else.' We all love Boracay and its for no other purpose but to preserve its popularity and its beauty," he said.